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Xbox Live “Metro” Dashboard

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Nov 19, 2011 in Brain Dump

Being a Software Tester and a Gamer, I obviously jumped at the chance to become a beta tester for the new Xbox Dashboard. Earlier this week I got the “Time for an update” message, and knew it was time to play.

As always with the Xbox updates, it just worked, took very little time and before I knew it, I was presented with the new dash, and I have to say, Microsoft have really impressed me.

So, what to expect when this goes live to the public ?

First screen you get is, Download a profile, Create a profile, or log in using your profile on a memory stick or hard drive. I have multiple Xboxs in the house, so tend to carry my profile and saves on a memory stick. However what I did was hit the download profile button. Within about 30 seconds it downloaded my profile from the server and plonked this on the hard drive, you are then given the option to save password….this essentially automatically logs you in when you switch on the Xbox.

Once your logged in, your presented by the new dashboard. This seems a lot cleaner than the previous version as it groups the content together with a title bar above.

The landing screen (at least for me) is Home, which gives you a Play <Current game in your DVD Drive>, Quickplay (the previous couple of games you’ve played), a rolling advert in the middle, and a couple of adverts down the right hand side.

The left tab to this in the bing search, which I’ve tried on the the Kinect and this seems to work fine. I shouted at it “Xbox Bing Search Batman” and was presented by all the batman films, games, and any music that was available on Zune Music. I could then just say “Lego Batman”, then screens, and I could quite easily navigate through the screens with the power of my voice.

The tab to the right of Home is social. Now this is where I think the major difference is. No longer do you have a massive list of friends that you have to scroll through, you only get the friends that are online and what they are playing. You can if you wish click on the friends tab and see everyone.

Underneath your friends button you also have a Social Apps section, this is where you will find the likes of twitter, facebook and video kinect. Finally on the screen you have the option to Sign In or Out.

Now one of the major additions is you can now see friends of friends. Clicking on any of your friends will give you the option to Send Message, Join Game, Invite to Party, Compare Games or Friends. The Friends button will show you a list of your friends friends, what they are playing and essentially everything you would expect to see if these people where in your friends list.

Another feature under the Friends tab are Parties, Beacons & Activity and Add friend. Add friend and Parties explain themselves, however the Beacons & Activity is quite interesting. The centre tab is “My Activity” which give you your top 5 activities, currently at the top of mine is Skyrim, which says 2 online, and 13 recently played. Clicking on this drills you down another level and takes you to a “Your friends’ activity in this game”. Currently this lists 13 of my friends, which you can then click through to their profile.

The next tab is Friends’ Activity, which gives “The games and apps your friends have been playing” and essentially a personalised top 10, with the top seeming to be Modern Warfare 3, on the Xbox, with 19 recently played. This screen is quite interesting, if I wanted to play online with my xbox friends, I know what games are hot within my gaming community. Currently the top 5 are Modern Warefare 3, Gear of War 3, Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Call of Duty Elite.

The final tab in here is the My Beacons. Here you can tag a game, and highlight to your friends that you want to hook up and play online. From my understanding, if one of your friends starts playing a tagged game, they will be notified that you want to play. Beacons are also something you can set on the Xbox.com website, as this has just had a major overall to bring in line with the Metro dashboard.

What they have added, and I think is an excellent feature is a more verbose notification system. Previously if I fired up a game that others were playing, it would say “Friends playing this game”, now it tells you how many friends are playing this game. Also, if friends start playing a game you are playing, you will get a notification saying <friends names> has started playing <your game>, which I think will be brilliant for people wanting to hook up and play multiplayer games.

The next 3 screen Video, Games, Music all work similar to the current dashboard, but redesigned to the new format.

The next screen, Apps, intrigues me, and not sure where they’re going to go with it. Currently in the beta this had Sky, ZuneVideo, ZuneMusic, Last.fm, Facebook and Halo Waypoint (as I have these all installed. There is a My Apps “folder” that contains Media Center, Picture Viewer, View Player, Music Player and Sky. The next “folder” is the one that intrigues me.. “Apps Marketplace”. Currently all this has in it is “Social”, and takes you to the Social tab, however this could get interesting if they start to add more apps.

The next tab is Pre-release, which currently has Green Preview, Latest Info, New Features, Help and Tips, which essentially give you a text dump to the screen. The Green Preview however doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

The final screen is settings, and here you can find all the normal, System, Preferences, Profile, Kinect, Account, Privacy, Family and Turn Off.

Now one of the major features you’ll find here is the Cloud Saves. Microsoft are kindly giving 512Mb of cloud storage to gold members. This isn’t enabled by default, you need to go into System >> Storage >> Cloud Saved Games >> Enable. Once this is done, you can select this as a storage device as you would if you were saving to a memory stick. What is seems to do is use a local cache, and then upload to the cloud in the background, I assume this as I’ve recently been playing skyrim, and after turning off the xbox, the light blinks on the front as it does when you have background downloads enabled.

All in all I’m very impressed with this update, and only hope Sony copy what they’ve done with the cloud storage, instead of this ‘backup your saves at some point during the night rubbish’ that they have, this doesn’t help me having multiple consoles and wanting to move between room.

One thing I will say, is I hope they give the option to buy more storage, as Skyrim and my 48 saves take up most of the 512Mb, and there is no way I can get my 2Gb of Dragon Age saves up there.

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Huawei E585 MiFi Router

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Aug 5, 2010 in Tech

I’ve been toying with the idea of the MiFi device for a while (while since I moved from Nokia to iPhone and lost the ability to use the joikuspot software)

I get the majority of my internet fix when out and about using my iPhone, however there are occasions when I’m away from home and could do with connecting my MacBook to the web, when I’m not anywhere near a useable wireless network.

I had looked at paying for the tethering on my iPhone for these occasions, however both me and C would need to connect, which would mean setting up internet connection sharing, or something like.

So I decided on the Huawei E585 MiFi Router from 3 on pay as you go, as I only see myself using this on occasions.

The device is pretty awesome, it’s small and apparently will last 5 hours on a single charge.

The LCD display, show data usage, batttery, signal, and messages.

I’ve yet to put this to use as there seems to be a 10 foot “no 3 signal” cloud around my house (according to the coverage map on 3’s site).

All in all, very happy with the purchase, and will update once I’ve had a chance to use it.

Unboxing pics below.

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Google Latitude on iOS 4

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Jul 11, 2010 in Apple, Application, iPhone

As you may remember from my post on iOS 4, I was looking forward to somebody developing a Google Latitude application.

Google Latitude is a way of keeping your friends updated on your location in real time. If you have a latitude application running on your mobile device, this will poll the Google servers and update your location. This is especially handy if you are meeting with friends, or want to see if somebody is home before popping in.

Google Latitude has been working as a layer on Google Map on the Nokia, Blackberry and Android based phones for some time now, however only worked as a HTML5 version on the iPhone (which doesn’t work as a background application)

Now thanks to the Background location feature on iOS 4, and Google making the Latitude API’s available, developers are able to start work on Location based applications.

The first one that seems to have emerged is an app called Latitudie.

Latitudie is still in it’s infancy stage, (Current version is 1.1) however seems to do the job. Once signed in, it will pinpoint your location on the map and start to poll the Google Latitude server. You then have to option to view your history, and thanks to  iOS 4 it will happily run in the background.

In version 1.0, the application tended to not update at all if your didn’t move locations, which would lead others to think you had the application switch off, also the accuracy would drop, making it look like you were in the middle of a field, and not at home.

In version 1.1 the developer has addressed these issues by allowing you to switch on/off “Low accuracy in background” and an additional feature of “Periodic updates” (when low accuracy in background is switched off).

As I’ve said, it’s still in it’s infancy stages, doesn’t allow you to view your friends on the map, or do much else apart from update your location. I find myself using the HTML5 Google Maps version to find my friends.

If your a data junkie and like to know where you’ve been and when, and have other friends using latitude, this app is a must. I hope as this app grows, it will add all the feature that the HTML5 version of google maps has to offer.

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